Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Reading Challenge: Volume 3

Continuing with the third and final volume of reviews for my reading challenge this year:

( 21 )



The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

So, at the end of October, I spontaneously decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, which is the National Novel Writing Month that usually happens in November.  Hence my decision to dive into this idea book that I just happened to already have on my Nook account, downloaded from who knows when, because I knew I'd want to try to get back into writing one day.  I'm planning to refer to this book throughout my writing process, since I have not seriously written in such a long time.

This book definitely has plenty of prompts to spark that writing flame.  I cannot deny that.  However, many of them don't apply to my specific situation, or I just can't remember enough, such as when the prompt suggests to write about something that happened at a specific point in your past.  Especially since the memories of my early 20s always tend to be a bit of a blur to my mind.  But the chapter that has resonated with me the most is Chapter 17: Minding Other People's Business.  It talks about paying attention to the world around you, and letting those simple observations spark ideas for writing, such as a conversation that you've overheard at an airport or in a restaurant.  I already do this, whenever I'm out in public, because of a writing teacher I had that advised us to use the things you hear people say, as a potential beginning to a story.

I  thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and it has so many helpful tips and tricks to overcome the struggles of the writing process.  I felt inspired throughout the journey of reading it, which is exactly what I needed to get out of it.  And now I feel like I'm better prepared to dive right into my writing again.

[...] at some point, we must put away the books and sit down to write. There are lessons to be learned about writing that only can be taught by writing. -pg 336


Read from October 26, 2017 to November 15, 2017
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( 22 )


Spider Woman's Daughter (Leaphorn & Chee #19) by Anne Hillerman

📚 Continuing with the B&N Readouts selection for November, this is another mystery novel, originating in New Mexico on a Native American reservation, where a local legendary lieutenant, retired from the Navajo Nation police force, is shot in the head after leaving a restaurant, having had breakfast with some co-workers.  Our protagonist, Bernadette "Bernie" Manuelito, just happens to witness the encounter, which sets her on a mission to acquire justice for the man, who's like a father to her.  

I like how the mystery keeps seeming to have a viable lead, only to be snuffed out by further investigation.  I was surprised to find out who was responsible for the shooting at the end of the book, though I could definitely see the motive.  I loved that while I was in the middle of reading this, we happened to travel halfway across the country, through Arizona & New Mexico, and I saw the actual setting where the story takes place: Shiprock, Window Rock, Chaco Canyon.  Granted it was only from the highway's point-of-view, but still!  It was neat to make that connection to the book.

Something that I noticed throughout the book, that I didn't like, was the way the story transitioned into a completely different scene, without any notice in the formatting.  It was slightly confusing, until I realized and would have to mentally remind myself: "Oh, we're in a different scene now."  Overall, the book was entertaining enough to keep me coming back to it every day.  It was riveting to learn more about the Native American culture as well.

Read from November 2, 2017 to November 27, 2017
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( 23 )



Odd Hours (Odd Thomas #4) by Dean Koontz

So now we are up to Odd's fourth adventure, where he has procured a job in a place called Magic Beach, as a personal chef for Lawrence "Hutch" Hutchison, an actor-turned-children's-book-author, whose movies were popular during the 1940's & 1950's.  Once again, the action starts from the first few chapters, where Odd goes on what he thinks will be a simple walk on the beach, yet ends up being chased by men he encounters while conversing with a pregnant woman he'd seen in a dream.  This mysterious woman turns out being far more than she seems, speaking in vague statements, rather than directly answering any of Odd's questions.

This book reminded me of Odd's second adventure, in how everything unfolds throughout the latter portion in a rather rapid progression, yet this one had twist and turns in the plot, one after another.  I could barely keep up!  Not to mention how Odd transformed into even more of a badass.  I was surprised at how he handled taking down all the criminals.

There's a point in the book where it is mentioned that Odd should have realized who the mysterious woman was, that he instantly vows to protect.  Ever since reading that, I had been trying to figure out who she is, and I'm still slightly confused, though after the last words of the book, I have an inkling of an idea.  (And if my idea is correct, that opens it up for even more confusion, but alas, that's to be expected in Odd's world...)  But nothing concrete is said, so I'm assuming I will have to find out in the next installment.

Read from November 4, 2017 to November 21, 2017
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( 24 )


Odd Interlude (Odd Thomas #4.1) by Dean Koontz

So this book bridges the gap between Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse, taking place directly after the events of Odd Hours ended.  Odd and his new traveling companion Annamaria are drawn to the small village of Harmony Corner via Odd's psychic magnetism, though they don't know why.  Odd immediately goes snooping on their first night at the motor court, after having a disturbing nightmare.  He discovers the existence of a mysterious Presence that is able to take control of the Harmony family, one by one, that also prevents them from leaving the area without causing torture and misery to their fellow family members.

I know I keep sounding like a broken record, but this installment of Odd's journey is extremely creepy, getting worse by the page.  Though it was intriguing to see Odd not dealing with any of the lingering dead that he normally sees, instead involving himself with top-secret government experiments gone horribly wrong.  The family that he befriends are all purely alive and kicking, although the fate of one twelve-year-old girl is up for grabs, after the town's tyrannical 'ruler' decides that she is becoming "too beautiful" to live.  Odd immediately develops a sort of big-brother-y bond with her and steps up to the challenge to save her.

This book also introduces a few chapters from the girl's perspective, instead of Odd's, for reasons that are explained at the very end, which was a nice change of pace.  I grew quite fond of her character and how incredibly brave & optimistic she remained, despite the torment and despair she'd been facing for the past five years.  The next installment promises to be even worse than the events that took place at Harmony Corner, so I'm kind of scared to see what happens next!

Read from November 21, 2017 to December 13, 2017
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( 25 )


Front Lines (Front Lines #1) by Michael Grant

📚 Down to the last B&N Readouts for this year, and I have to say that this selection looks like it won't disappoint!  It's an alternative view of the restrictions of World War II, allowing women to be drafted and enabling them to voluntarily enlist as well.  It simultaneously follows that journey for three unique women, representing three pivotal locations in the United States: Rio Richlin from the West (California), Frangie Marr from the Midwest (Oklahoma), and Rainy Schulterman from the East (New York).

I really enjoyed the small hints of romance that the author has included for each of the women in this book, during the first part, where they are preparing for their roles in the war.  Each woman is in a different place romantically, but it gives that sense of reality in this fictional version of the truth.  Rio ends up on the front lines as a rifleman, Frangie pursues the medical aspect of war, and Rainy enlists in military intelligence, so you really get a feel for the various facets of the U.S. Army.

The second portion of the book involves the intense action of the war that the three of them are fighting, in their own ways.  I like how intricate the details are, you really get a sense of what was going on in their heads and what the women were dealing with as they fight to survive.  This part also brings the three of them together, in ways that they hadn't imagined.  I will be looking into reading the next 2 books of this series as well, because while I wouldn't consider myself to be a huge history buff, the writing made the war intriguing enough to see what happens to these women that I've grown fond of, throughout their different journeys.

Read from December 1, 2017 to December 23, 2017
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( 26 )


The Cryptographer (Second Sons #1) by Alice Wallis-Eton

📖 Reading Prompt: a book related to your line of work

First off, this only vaguely relates to my line of work, in the fact that the main character, Aster Tanner, works as a secretary, which is what I've enjoyed doing the most in previous jobs.  And because this is a historical fiction novel set in the early 1800s in England, it was unusual for a woman to be working as a secretary.  Hence my use of the word vaguely.

Words had power, and the right words in the wrong ears could bring down nations. -Chapter 8

This was a delightful little read about an unlikely couple falling in love, yet keeping the walls around their hearts tightly in place.  Their lack of communication towards the end of the book was frustrating, until they finally decided to resolve their issues by declaring exactly how they felt about each other.  Though it was still sweetly written and I enjoyed the moment where they finally reach that same page, metaphorically speaking.  Among their budding romance is a mysterious "list" that names traitors to England, which Aster realizes she has in her possession, putting her life in danger.  She successfully decodes the puzzle and flees to a 'safe house' until Iain and her faithful terrier find her.

I liked the character development and backstory of Iain and Aster, further implicating their unlikely pairing.  I also ended up growing quite fond of all four of the Scotsmen and their humorous banter with each other.  Enough so that I will probably be purchasing the next three books in the series, which revolves around each of them finding their own version of love, as well as dealing with the traitors that have been revealed.

Read from December 13, 2017 to December 24, 2017
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( 27 )


Oklahoma Christmas Blues by Maggie Shayne

So I spontaneously decided to try for another quick read, inspired by it being so close to Christmas, and the title including my homestate of Oklahoma.  And I do still have about 7 days to get in more books, so I might as well try while I can!

My first impression of this book is that it's most likely going to be like those sappy holiday movies on the Hallmark channel, filled with mushy sweetness that is almost too much to handle.  Haha.  We'll see though.  I will update once I've finished!

[UPDATE] So I was right.  It was sappy and mushy and all the other words that describe a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel.  But it was an enjoyable read.  I liked the character development, although their backstories were slightly brief, but I got to know them enough so that I could relate to their situations.  Some of the dialogue seemed slightly off to me, in seeming a bit unbelievable that a person would actually say something like that, even though I did also grow up in Oklahoma.  Albeit not in a small town, where this story takes place.

Anyway, it was a fun holiday read that is sure to lift the reader's Christmas spirit and belief in Santa Claus! :)

Read from December 24, 2017 to December 28, 2017
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Legend: ðŸ“– reading prompts ðŸ“š = B&N Readouts


( So let me just say it here, I'm not going to finish the last 4 books in my challenge for this year.  Scratch that, I'm still trying for 30! Officially ended at 27 books. )

Certain events throughout the latter part of the year prevented me from reading as much as I would have otherwise, but that's okay.  Life happens and at least I can say that I tried to get all 30 books completed.  Considering the circumstances, I'm happy with where I ended up.  I will be continuing this next year as well so hopefully I will be more successful! 

In conclusion, Merry Christmas Eve, and I hope everyone has a safe and happy time saying goodbye to 2017 next week!  

Welcome, 2018.

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